An open-access magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) system is being developed for use in research on orientational/gravitational effects on lung physiology and function. The open-access geometry enables study of human subjects in diverse orientations. This system operates at a magnetic flux density, considerably smaller than the flux densities of typical other MRI systems, that can be generated by resistive electromagnet coils (instead of the more-expensive superconducting coils of the other systems). The human subject inhales air containing He-3 or Xe-129 atoms, the nuclear spins of which have been polarized by use of a laser beam to obtain a magnetic resonance that enables high-resolution gas space imaging at the low applied magnetic field. The system includes a bi-planar, constant-current, four-coil electromagnet assembly and associated electronic circuitry to apply a static magnetic field of 6.5 mT throughout the lung volume; planar coils and associated circuitry to apply a pulsed magnetic-field-gradient for each spatial dimension; a single, detachable radio-frequency coil and associated circuitry for inducing and detecting MRI signals; a table for supporting a horizontal subject; and electromagnetic shielding surrounding the electromagnet coils.